The synonyms for "love" include: "affection", "passion", "yearning" and so on. In relation to its synonyms what would the word "love" be referred to as?

Example Sentence:

The synonyms of "love" are affection, passion and yearning.

Now the incomplete sentence:

The word "Love" is the [insert word here] of affection, passion and yearning.

I am trying to think of a word that would help me establish a reverse relation. However all I could come up with are words and phrases like "Source", "Target of synonyms" and so on.


As far as I'm aware, there is no such word. The existence of such a word would rely upon a one-way, or hierarchical relationship between synonyms, which is not the case; synonyms are reversible.

If word B is a synonym of word A, then word A is also a synonym of word B (although sometimes in fewer contexts). (For most words at least) word A was not "the original meaning" from which word B arose. It therefore doesn't make sense to suggest the existence of a parent-child relationship between synonyms.

You should probably change your sentence to:

The word "Love" has the synonyms affection, passion and yearning.


Affection, passion and yearning are all synonyms for love.

  • Thank you for your explanation. Much appreciated! This definitely clarifies a lot for me. – AmatuerDev Jun 22 '17 at 9:34
  • If A and B are synonyms, there are contexts where A and B may be interchanged with no or negligible change in meaning. Definition. It may well be possible to use A in more contexts overall than B, but saying 'B is also a synonym of A, but to a lesser degree' is incorrect. / It is a duplicate (if one can decide on a valid question hidden behind the misconception). – Edwin Ashworth Jun 22 '17 at 15:35
  • 2
    @EdwinAshworth That was what I was trying to get at by saying "to a lesser degree", I guess I perhaps mean "in fewer contexts". E.g. if one word encompasses more meaning/has a more generic definition, like table and furniture, or ants and insects. – SteveES Jun 22 '17 at 15:47

In some paper thesauri, a list of synonyms starts with a headword. This is mainly an organisational feature rather than a linguistic one, but tends to be a fairly common word that's also a good synonym for the rest of the list. For example, Roget's (arbitrary edition found online)

492. Scholar. --- N Scholar, connoisseur, savant, pundit...

Unfortunately this is a better fit to the question title than the example, but may explain what you're thinking of.

  • Thank you for shedding light on headwords. That is something new to me. – AmatuerDev Jun 22 '17 at 16:27

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